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Live it or Instagram it? The way Gens Y, Z travel

  • Millennials are not entirely dependent on phones for inspiration or holiday planning. Gen Z, on the other hand, prefers staying hyper-connected
  • Millennials—those born between 1981 and 1996—have enjoyed the spotlight as the largest consumer audience in the past decade

Back from a weekend getaway in Tala, Pranjali Jain, 23, can’t stop thinking about the two days she spent at the hill station in Maharashtra. “I went on a hike, barbequed paneer in the evenings, spent hours in the pool, observed farming in the villages and went fishing," she says.

Her enthusiasm and packed-to-the-rafters break stands in deep contrast to the experience of a group of millennials on weekend holiday in Uttarakhand. It was filled with hours devoted to books, short walks in the hills and a bonfire at night.

Millennials—those born between 1981 and 1996—have enjoyed the spotlight as the largest consumer audience in the past decade. As first adopters of streaming services, conscious clothing, responsible tourism, microbreweries, artisanal coffee and a dozen other trends that came in their wake, millennials have been at the epicentre of marketing pow-wows until now. But the scales are rapidly shifting towards individuals born between 1996 and 2000, commonly known as Gen Z. By next year, they will be the largest group of consumers across the world. Like all industries, travel services are also prepping for the shift in core consumers and their choices.

Research by Expedia Group Media Solution in 2018 decodes how Gen Z is shaping the future of travel. The report finds that both Gen Z and millennial travellers take the same number of trips in a year, but their travel behaviour is rooted in different motivations and influences, changing the rules of the game among service providers and marketers.

As the first fully digital generation, Gen Z are rapid consumers of mobile-friendly, rich content and are most likely to make travel decisions based on spectacular imagery. They are activity-focused rather than relaxation-oriented, and prioritize experience over price.

Mindful travellers

Having consumed loads of information on global warming and eco-friendliness, these concepts are native to Gen Z. Sustainability is an integral factor in their choice of travel destinations, accommodations and operators. An eco-conscious setting is likely to lift the spirit of a Gen Z traveller much more than a millennial, and the Gen Z-er is more likely to trade comfort for an environmentally aware atmosphere. Having climate activists like Greta Thunberg (though a post-Gen Z member) as inspiration, Gen Z travellers are likely to make more environment-friendly decisions while travelling.

Stretching the buck

Since Gen Z is still fairly young, their purchasing power is partially dependent on parents or they will need to travel on a shoestring budget. But they are taking on the role of prime influencer for family travel. Vikram Ahuja, 35, founder of Byond Travel, a discovery and booking platform, says, “Millennials tend to value convenience over cost. For example, a millennial will be willing to pay a surcharge of 20-30% for a non-stop flight rather than hop multiple times to get to their destination."

While both generations have an affinity for technology, there is a difference in adoption and use. Millennials are not entirely dependent on their phones for inspiration or planning a holiday. The likelihood of booking flights, rooms and experiences on the phone is much more among Gen Z travellers. Use of multiple social media platforms rather than one is another hallmark of Gen Z travellers. Visual media, like Instagram photos or TikTok videos, are a significant influence on their travel experience. “Millennials often yearn to break out of social media platforms and dive into the real world. For them, technology is not prime on location, while Gen Z likes to stay hyper-connected even on trips," says Ahuja.

While the two groups might differ on the use of technology and value for money, experience is key for both. Gurudeep Ramakrishna, 39, co-founder and chief executive of Unventured Expeditions, draws a comparison in the outdoor travel segment. “Both generations are experience-driven but have eyes on different goals. Where active adventures are concerned, millennials want to meet interesting people and enjoy the destination. Gen Z travellers who come on our trips are more body-conscious, fitness-goal driven and are all about summitting peaks."

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